The song first roared to success when it appeared in the original film and on the soundtrack. “Danger Zone” was composed by Giorgio Moroder and the lyrics were written by Tom Whitlock. Before Loggins walked in the door and added his ideas to the tune, the song went through different vocalists including REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, but Cronin couldn’t hit the high notes.
Loggins could and did.
The “Top Gun” soundtrack would go on to become one of the biggest-selling movie albums of all-time, so its sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” seemed a natural place to revisit the song.
Loggins spoke with Variety about re-recording “Danger Zone,” but why the original was deemed superior, and his upcoming autobiography, “Still Alright,” out June 14.
Are you looking forward to having a new generation discover “Danger Zone?”
The last thing I expected was a rerun of “Top Gun” 36 years later, but we have been talking about a sequel since the first film came out.
And six years ago, I ran into Tom [Cruise] when we were both booked on Jimmy Kimmel. I said, “I know you’re doing the new ‘Top Gun,’ but what’s the deal? Is ‘Danger Zone’ a part of it?’ He said, ‘It wouldn’t be ‘Top Gun’ without ‘Danger Zone.’ He stayed true to this word.
The director met with me when I was playing at the Hollywood Bowl with Michael McDonald. He wanted to see if I would try a remake of “Danger Zone” and he wanted to try a remake of “Playing with the Boys” because now there are female pilots. So, I did a duet with Butterfly Boucher, who’s an Australian punk rocker, but it didn’t fit the movie. It’s out there streaming…somewhere.
Is this updated version of “Danger Zone” what we hear in the film?
No, I tried to do a re-recording where it was sounded, if not exactly like the original, as close as possible — but with better audio and sounds. Because that was 36 years ago and the audio had only gone so far. But he wanted the original vibe that song had. It was recorded at Musicland Studios so it was well-recorded, but it would have had a lot more punch if I could have done it in 5.0 But that said, he wanted to keep it reminiscent of the first “Top Gun” and set that mood right from the beginning.
What was it like writing that song originally?
I kind of cheated on that one because I came in late. Giorgio Moroder had the essence of the song written and when I came in I said, “Well, it needs new chords here and there.” I helped structure the bridge of the song and massaged it.
Giorgio is such a great writer. So the writing of the song was easy. I also wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it.
When I met Kevin from REO Speedwagon, he was someone they approached to sing it, but he couldn’t reach the high notes. He said, “I can’t imagine anyone but you singing it.”
In your book, you mentioned seeing Jimi Hendrix perform at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968. How are you feeling about returning to that stage in July with Jim Messina?
It is an exciting thing. The Bowl is a status venue. In L.A., the audience has always been really good for me. They know my stuff. When I get up there, I can play anything and they’re going to respond to it. In other cities, where it’s just “Footloose” and “Danger Zone,” those are tougher audiences.
We’ll be doing Loggins and Messina for an hour, then I’ll come out and do Kenny Loggins for another hour. So you get that full experience. There will be a lot of nostalgia coming up for that show.
Are you guys doing any more shows beyond the Bowl?
No, it’s just a one-off special.
Jimmy and I are framing it as our gift to that audience who are still around who want to go and buy that ticket. There is a very strong nostalgia factor for he and I, but this may be the last time we play together.
What made this the right time to tell your story?
I hit an age where I started thinking about things like selling the publishing or announcing a final tour, or what do I want to do now? I have earned the idea of retirement, but what does that look like? I know that I need emotionally to stay creative. I don’t need to be a hit song-maker, but I need to keep writing.